Common Name: Mountain Lion, Cougar, Panther
Scientific Name: Felis concolor
Species: F. concolor
Mountain lions, which are also known as pumas, panthers, and cougars, are the largest cats of North America. These cats live in most habitats and can grow to a length of more than 6 feet with a weight of over 200 pounds. In spite of their size, they cannot roar like the larger cats. This is due to the hardening of the hyoid bone in their throat. They are considered by scientists to be the biggest of the small cats.
Mountain lions are generally tawny or yellowish brown above and dull white or buff below. The sides of the mouth, the backs of the ears, and the tip of the tale can be black or dark brown. Their preferred food is deer and elk, however, they also eat any animal that these carnivores can catch. They have been known to eat raccoons, beavers, hares and house pets. Their method of hunting is to stalk their prey before bringing it down with a bite to the throat. Sometimes they lie in wait and ambush prey by jumping from a high point.
These largely solitary animals have huge territories and because of this have the widest distribution of any native mammal of the western hemisphere. They have been spotted as far south as Cape Horn and as far north as Canada. As a result of this large habitat, conflicts between the mountain lion and humans have taken space. Mountain lions grow quickly and reach maturity in three years. Because females produce litters of 3 or 4 cubs (after a short pregnancy of just 3 months) every couple of years in addition to the lifespan being about 20 years, it is no wonder that the mountain lion population has grown in recent times.
As cities have expanded, the mountain lion habitat has begun to shrink, causing people and cats to fight over space. This has led to several human deaths followed by the hunting and killing of cats. If this amazing cat is to avoid extinction, ways must be found to allow humans and cats to share the same habitat.
Author: Giovanni D
Bibliography: The New Encyclopedia of American Animals by Tom Jackson, Arness Publishings, 2006 The Encyclopedia of Mammals, Edited by David Macdonald, Brown Publishing, 2006 http://animaldiversity.ummz.umich.edu/site/accounts/information/Puma_concolor.html http://www.projectwildlife.org/living-mountainlions.htm
Photo Credit: Roger Barbour